Local Father-Son Duo Invents Machine to Disinfect Airplanes, Classrooms, Restaurants and More
When Art Kreitenberg graduated Medical School to become a surgeon, his father, who was a plumber at the time, shared a little tongue-in-cheek wisdom. He said “Being a doctor is great, but just remember, plumbers actually save more lives than doctors.”
His reasoning? Because “Plumbers prevent infections.”
The statement stuck with Art through decades of medical service as a doctor and surgeon in both Long Beach and Los Angeles, California. An idea began percolating and when his son Mo was in college, the two decided it was time to turn that philosophy of preventing infection into a product.
The basic equation behind their mission was identifying an already existing reliable technology, “UVC Lights” which are used frequently in hospitals to kill germs, and figuring out how to adapt that technology to spaces outside of healthcare.
They started tinkering in 2011 and set their sight on airplanes.
“We realized pretty clearly that airplanes play a direct role in the way viruses spread around the world. When humans started flying commercially it really enabled the fast spread of germs. Since there was no good way for airlines to disinfect the cabin surfaces, there was no way for regulators to write laws requiring them to.” Says Mo Kreitenberg.
Art and Mo built a prototype of the device that would eventually turn into their patented “GermFalcon.” It was essentially a flight attendant’s food and drink cart with two wings spanning out from it that could shoot UV rays onto all high touch surfaces of an aircraft - including galleys and lavatories
They were thrilled at the success and effectiveness of their machine and immediately got to work educating the airlines.
Fast forward 8 years to 2019 and they had learned a tough lesson. Turns out that it’s pretty darn tough for a regular old father and son to break into a billion-dollar airline industry.
In early 2020, they made a plan to step back from their airline goals for the “GermFalcon” and make a last-ditch effort to adapt the machine to other spaces before reevaluating the business altogether.
“Basically at the beginning of 2020 we said ‘look we need to make something happen or this thing is done.’ We knew we had a great product but the barriers to entry in the airline industry were just too high. We’d have to convince an airline to roll out our technology to every airport they serviced, and we weren’t making enough headway.”
They began going after other markets outside of aerospace. They had already adapted a machine that could be used in hospitals, a market that was already familiar with UVC technology and seemed more willing to hear pitches on a better version of what was already in place. They also set their site on other workspaces including classrooms, restaurants, stadiums, and more. They more or less gave up on the airline industry.
Fast-forward another year to 2020 and Mo and Art are being recognized across the airline industry for their impact on safety, featured on every network news channel, labeled a top invention by Time Magazine, and signing major global deals making their product an industry staple.
“People keep messaging me this year and saying things like ‘great timing,’” laughs Mo, “I tell them you should have talked to me three years ago… I mean we were definitely running uphill.”
Mo, who has been preaching the importance of killing surface germs for almost a decade now, says there’s a video interview of him available online at a convention in 2018 where he was telling the “GermFalcon's” story.
“The reporter asked me something like, “’What is it going to take for the airlines to start trying this?’ and I said point blank to the reporter, ‘I hope it doesn’t take a global pandemic.’”
Before 2018, despite years of emails, meetings, presentations, collaborations, and conventions, the only real leap in progress for “GermFalcon” had happened during a small outbreak of the Ebola virus in 2014. The global fear of spread persuaded Virgin America Airlines to partner with GermFalcon to help study and perfect their technology. That partnership led to meaningful research and development that helped transform the original GermFalcon design, which was constructed in the Kreitenberg’s home garage in Rossmoor, CA, into a viable product ready for production and implementation.
But just when the product was near perfection, Virgin America was acquired by Alaskan Airline in 2016 and they immediately discontinued all long-term projects which they described in their memo as “GermFalcon, etc..”
“That was a pretty big gut punch for us,” says Mo.
There were other glimmers of hope along the way, but no show of major interest for mass germ disinfectant until early 2020, when news of an unknown Corona Virus began surfacing and the CDC announced enhanced passenger safety screening on flights from China.
Mo and Art realized there may be need for their technology and put out a press release offering up their available GermFalcon systems for free to any flights entering the country from China. After all, the systems were just sitting in the garage… might as well be put to use.
Put to use they were. A few days after their press release went out, Mo was on his way to LAX to personally disinfect planes.
It’s been a whirlwind since then. Their technology has been recognized, utilized, and monetized. They’ve partnered with Honeywell, a major player in aerospace, and the GermFalcon has since been renamed the Honeywell UV Treatment system. They have been purchased and installed by multiple global airlines including JetBlue and are in talks with many others. With the success of GermFalcon, Dimer has since adapted their technology for use in all the other spaces as well - school districts, sports stadiums, restaurants, small businesses, corporate offices, you name it.
The technology is here, thanks to Mo and Art. Surfaces can and are being disinfected entirely and regularly with their UVC lights.
If you flew on an airplane in 2019, you would have been sitting in a seat and using the tray that held the germs of up to 30 previous passengers. Planes just flat out were not required to be disinfected.
Now thanks to the Honeywell UV Treatment System, planes can be rid of all viruses and bacteria in-between every flight.
But in 2021 Art and Mo aren’t just stopping at the airline industry. The world has realized the importance of disinfectants, and as Mo put it, “We’re a germ’s worst nightmare.”
If you work in an industry that might benefit from disinfecting your surfaces reach out to the local company at dimeruv.com. They are even currently offering disinfecting as a service to companies and organizations affected by COVID-19.
It’s a feel-good story to see Art and Mo Kreitenberg’s recent success knowing how long and hard they’ve been at this. Now they’re product is quite literally off the ground and soaring. The best part is, the more the GermFalcon flies, the safer it is for us to fly too.